The Bishop of London, The Rt Revd Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dr Richard Chartres, writes an introduction to our new report, released today: Love, Sweat and Tears: Church planting in east London…
It is fitting that this report should be released at Easter, for it tells a story of renewal and resurrection. This careful study dispels some common myths about church planting and offers grounds for thankfulness and hope.
The narrative we are so often told by the media (and by some within the Church) is that our congregations are in terminal decline. Church planting is one of the ways in which across the diocese we’re telling a different story – that churches can have a new lease of life and flourish at the heart of London’s diverse communities. The following pages tell the story of how that has happened in a few square miles of east London.
This report shows that this movement of the Spirit is forming new disciples, not simply shuffling existing ones around – and is renewing the parish system in some of London’s most deprived and challenging neighbourhoods. Where once the Church had seemed condemned to inexorable decline, instead reinvigorated congregations are a powerful witness to the risen Christ.
I hope the stories told here will be an inspiration to parishes across London and beyond. More than that, the lessons which have been learned over the past ten years since the reinvigoration of St Pauls, Shadwell could serve as a template for others who share the vision of revitalised churches. There is much to be said for learning the practical lessons of church planting contained within these pages.
In London, we have a vision for 100 new worshipping communities across the diocese by 2020. We are on the way to achieving this partly through church planting. As we read in this report, there can be some trepidation around the process. Yet experience shows it is overwhelmingly good news for the communities in which a parish is refreshed. This has been my experience in visiting such communities over the past 20 years but it is important that we now have a solid research base on which to continue the process of planting churches.
It’s clear that church planting requires a lot of hard work, humility, compromise and a good sense of humour. For all that, the rewards are obvious. Five churches described in this study, and many more across London, have been revived. Not only is that good news for each congregation and community, but members of these churches are in turn looking at how they can bless other churches through planting. This chain reaction is indicative of the creative, compassionate God we serve and the confident Gospel we proclaim in the 21st Century.
Church planting is not the possession of one tradition, but a gift to the whole Body of Christ. The revival of the See of Islington is enabling a wider range of congregations to experience its benefits. This report is an important part of that process. The Centre for Theology and Community is to be thanked not only for undertaking this pioneering research, but for helping churches in very different traditions to put its lessons into practice.